Poem: A Shell Out of Place

A Shell Out of Place

Out of place, a strange beauty,
discovered in the night,
out of place, beautifully dead,
every layer of shell a reflection of southern climes,
a place you came from,
and almost left behind.

You scrape off old dirt that has survived the sea,
cleaning it, making it new,
last vestiges of the Carolinas shaved off,
leaving it a thing displaced.
What cataclysm brought it here, so far from home,
what twist in the fabric of nature?

It is beautiful. Did I mention that?
Perhaps more so for its exotic differences
that remind you of your own path,
of walking on warm beaches far away in memory,
place you have walked
with a whole different cast of characters
than you travel with now. A different circus,
now happy to live without you.
They took their path and you chose yours,

coming to this cold land
with its softer light,
its tacturn smallness,
far simpler, far slower, a place to heal
and grow new layers,
your own coat of many colors,
a living mixed metaphor,
comfortable finally with yourself,
able to breathe.

You smile as you hold the shell.
It is memory. Beautiful, painful,
but somehow,
no longer real. It does not belong here.
and strangely enough, you do.

You rare back and throw it as far as you can
back into the sea, into the outgoing tide.
There is a woman waiting for you,
and the love that has become, here in your old age,
the home you never had,
the place you belong. Finally.

About this poem.

The picture is of a shell I found on Race Point on Cape Cod. It is decidedly out of place, more like the shells I saw when I lived down south and visited Hatteras beach. Here in New England, the shells we find are smaller, simpler. And yes, I tossed it into the ebbing tide. Don’t ask me why. It just seemed like it needed to continue on its journey.

I can be sort of flakey that way sometimes.

Tom

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